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Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1885, 

By N. R. Ball, 

in the office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington. 



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The ancestry of Washington, both Paternal and Maternal, 
has always been a subject of interest and enquiry with the 
American people; and that of the I)e Wessyntons, on the 
former side, one of much controversy among antiquarians en- 
gaged in tracing it. 

Though also possessed of some information of possible im- 
portance, and conflicting with the most generally accepted 
theories upon that subject, I propose to confine myself on this 
occasion to a consideration of the latter, and less known, the 
Maternal side of his house ; and, before I pass away myself 
from this mortal stage, to record, for the benefit of posterity, 
some fragmentary information concerning it, which exceptional 
facilities have enabled me, from time to time, to gather, and 
wliich extends backward from the present time to the seventh 
generation before its establishment on American soil. 

The name of his mother, familiar now to all mankind, was 
Mary Ball, a descendant, as we are informed in Bishop Meade's 
" Old Families of Virginia," of Colonel William Ball, who 
" came from England, with his family, about the year 1650, 
and settled at the mouth of Corotoman river, in Lancaster 
County, Virginia." 

Of the immediate cause of his emigration we are not in- 
formed, but presume, from its date, that, like that of many- 
others, it was a consequence of the overthrow of the Koyal 
House, and the persecution of its adherents. 

In reference to his family history preceding that event, I 
make, without further preface, the following extracts from 
an old manuscript before me, the original of which is in the 
possession of the Downman family of Virginia: 

''^History of the Ball Family of Barkham, comitatis Berks, 
taken from the Visitation Booke of London, marked O. 24 in 
the College of Arms : 

"William Ball, Lord of the Manor of Barkham, com. Berks, 
died in the year 1480. 

" Robert Ball, of Barkham, com. Berks, his son & heir, died in 

the year 1543. He left two sons, William and Edward. To Wil- 
liam he gave his personal estate, and he dwelt at Wokingham. 
Edward inherited the landed estate. 

" William Ball died at Wokingham in 1550, and was succeeded 
by his son John Ball, who married, first, Alice Haynes of Finch- 
hamstead, by whom he had four children, William, Richard, Eliza- 
beth, Joane ; and, second, Agnes, daughter of Richard Holloway 
of Barkham, by whom he had four children, John, Robert, Thomas, 
and Rachel, and died in 1599. 

" He was succeeded by his son, John Ball, who married Eliza- 
beth, daughter of Thomas Webb of Ruscombe, com. Berks. 

"He died in 1628, leaving five sons & sis daughters, William, 
Thomas, George, Richard, & Samuel, Rachel, Elizabeth, Susan, 
Als {sic), Dorothy, & Mary. 

" William Ball of Lincoln's Inn, and one of four attorneys in the 
Office of Pleas in the Exchequer, was living in 1634 

"His son. Colonel William Ball, emigrated to Virginia in the 
year 1657, and settled at ' Millenbeck,' (his Plantation,) on the 
Rappahannock river, Lancaster County, Parish of Saint Mary's, 
White Chapel. 

"He married Hannah Atherald ( sic.- Atherall !), and died in 
1680, leaving two sons, William and Joseph, and one daughter, 
Hannah, who married David Fox. 

" Captain William Ball married Margaret, daughter of Rawleigh 
{sic : Raleigh!) Downman, and resided at ' Millenbeck.' He died 
Sept. 30th, 1694, leaving eight sons and one daughter, William, 
Richard, James, Joseph, George, David, Stretchley, and Samuel. 
The daughter, Margaret, married her first cousin, Raleigh Down- 

" Joseph Ball, second son of Colonel William Ball, of ' Millen- 
beck,' lived at 'Epping Forest,' in Lancaster County, Va. He 
was married twice ; first to (several words illegible here, Miss 
Rogers is doubtless meant,) by whom he had one son, Joseph, and 
second to Mrs. Mary Johnson, by whom he had five daughters : 
Hannah, who married Mr. Raleigh Travers, of Stafford ; Anne 
married Colonel Edwin Conway ; Esther married Mi*. Raleigh 
Chinn ; Elizabeth married Rev'd Mr. Carnegie, and Mary, who 
married Mr. Washington, and was the mother of Gen'l George 

"Joseph Ball died in June, 1715, and is buried at 'Epjaing 
Forest.' His son Joseph, by his first wife, was educated in Eng- 
land, became a Barrister at Law, and married Frances, daugh- 
ter of Thomas Ravenscroft of London. He returned to Vir- 
ginia, and resided, for some years, at ' Moratico,' in Lancaster 
County, but finally went back to England, and lived at Stratford- 
by-Bow, in Essex co., where he died Jan. 10th, 1760. He had 
only one child, Frances, who married Raleigh Downman. They 

returned to Virginia in 1765, and lived at ' Moratico.' They had 
three children : Joseph Ball Downman, Raleigh Wm. Downman, 
and Frances, who married James Ball of ' Bewdley,' Lancaster 
Co., Va." 

The following was copied from an old Bible from " Morat- 
ico," now in the possession of Littleton Mitchell : 

"Joseph Ball, of 'Morattico,' in St. Mary's, White Chapel, in ye 
County of Lancaster, in Virginia, and Frances Eavenscroft, daugh- 
ter of Mr William Ravenscroft, of ye Parish of Westham, in ye 
County of Essex, in England, were marry'd together in ye Parish 
church of All-Hallows upon London Wall, Dec. ye 3d, 1709, by 
Josiah Richardson, ye Rector. (N. B. At that time I lodged in 
St. Bennet [words here illegible] London, at John Brotherton's.) 

"Our son Charles Ball was born at Bennett's Castle, in Barking 
Parish, in ye County of Esses afores'd, May ye 17th, 1717, and 
dy'd July 28th, 1719, in Westham Parish afores'd, and bury'd in 
ye Middle He {sic) of ye s'd church. 

" Our daughter Hetty Betty Ball was born Nov. ye 2d, 1719, 
& dy'd Oct. ye 7th, 1820 ; bury'd beside her brother. 

"Our daughter Frances Ball was born in Westham, Parish 
afores'd, Nov. ye 2d, 1720." 

Barkham, anciently " Beorchara," was noted as the spot at 
which William the Conqueror paused on his devastating march 
from the bloody field of Hastings, as the old chronicle tells us, 
"Wasting the land, burning the towns, and sleaing {sic) the 
people till he came to Beorcham," whose beauty, nestled amid 
the green hills of Berkshire, perhaps it was, that stayed his 
ruthless hand. 

A century ago it was a village of some fifty houses, attached 
to the estate of the Leveson-Gowers. 

Its size, manorial limits, and consequent value, in the time 
of the family which is the subject of our sketch, we do not 
know. Probably it was not great, as we have no reason to 
suppose that its members were, at any time, remarkable for 
wealth, rank, or intellect, but simply men doing their duty in 
their day and generation, and deserving well of their fellows. 

The first mention of the name occurs in the " Domesday 
Book of Exon," some four centuries earlier still, w^iere a cer- 
tain " Vice-Comes Bal " is named as a landed proprietor. 

To be sure he seems to have had but one poor little piece of 
land, while his comrades had their hundreds of manors, and the 
Chief himself had no less than 1,422, (fourteen hundred and 


But judging the past by the present _year of Grace, 1885, 
the " getting of gear " was never a family trait, nor even tlie 
ability to hold it together when gotten ! so our poor Vice- 
Comes, in spite of his " Barren acres," (or rather Hydes of 
land.) was, it is likely, as the Scotch phrase it, a " clever enough 
fellow of his hands," and died under shield, as became his 

Or, more likely still, this original progenitor of the arch- 
rebel George Washington was himself a Saxon " rebel^'' dying 
,in defence of his liumble hearth and home, or, (like many of 
his remote descendants,) living stripped of all. 

Poor '■'■ BaW'' ! — rel)ellion seems to have run in their blood, 
and their ill-luck to have led them generally on the losing side. 

The passage in question may be found in the Exon Domes- 
day, page 461 , and runs as follows : " Rex ht. I ma. que vo- 
caf Brantona. Huic addita e. I virg. tre. q. p. tinuit ad (some 
words illegible here) Bal vice comit die q. rex E f. u. & m. & 
val p. ann'" XX sol." 

Later on, while in the main pursuing the even tenor of their 
way, and dying, if not unhonored at least unsung, from time 
to time flashes of spirit may be seen among them or evidence 
occurs of the general solidity of their stand. 

It was Sir Alexander John Ball, Admiral of the Blue, who, 
abont the close of the last century, distinguished himself at 
the siege of Malta, and was, in consequence, made Governor 
of that Island. 

It was a Major Ball, half a century before, who, alone and 
unarmed, took his life in his hand and went into the forest of 
Ladyswood to parlej^ with the Highland deserters, and induce 
them to return to their allegiance ; at which time, it must i)e 
remembered, the " Wild Highlander" stood, in English esti- 
mation, pretty much as the Modocs, who butchered (^anby un- 
der flag of truce, did in our own. 

In " Dodsley's Annual Register" is recorded his death at 
"Dingley," his seat in Northants, at a very advanced age, 
after sixty years' continuous service in the British army. 

Still further back, a century or so, we And, in an old Local 
History styled " The Worthies of Devon," a quaint and amus- 
ing account of Sir Peter Ball, Recorder of tiie City of Exeter, 
who, " being no less eminent for his loyalty than his law," by 
his adhesion to his Royal Master forfeited his otflce, pi-efer- 
ments and the splendid estate of " Mamhead," afterwards the 
seat of the Earl of Lisbnrne, and *'lieth interred in the church 

of which he was sometime Patron. Among other things, he 
was excellently well skilled in the science of Antiquities, and 
wrote several volumes thereon, but with so ill cm hand that 
they are not legiUer (Bad show, this, for the records of 
Exeter !) 

Henry Ball, Windsor Herald of the Royal College of Arms, 
died in office, Feb. 13th, 1686. 

On a brass tablet in the Parish church of Llandulph, Corn- 
wall, it is recorded that Mary Ball of " Pladley," Sussex Co., 
intermarried with Theodore Paleologus, last descendant of the 
Imperial line of the last Christian Emperor of Greece, which 
reigned in Constantinople until subdued by the Turks. 

Of his ancestor Thomas, who defended the Castle of Salo- 
nica a wliole year against the Turks, making his escape from 
that fortress when all hope of relief had been abandoned, and 
taking refuge in Italy, where Pope Pius II. allowed him an 
asylum until his death, Mohammed II., Emperor of the 
Turks, gave this character, that " in the great country of the 
Peloponnesus he had found many slaves, but never a man but 

Many other matrimonial alliances, at various epochs, less 
noted than this, and to be found in the Baronetage of Britain, 
among them one of Mary Ball, heiress of " Yately," to Sir 
Andrew Henley, of the family of the Earl of Northington, and 
another of Margaret Ball, of " Hatton," to Sir James Camp- 
bell, of Aberchill, need not occupy our space here, Nor can 
we do more than allude to Robert Ball, LL.D., of Dublin, the 
eminent Irish naturalist, and to the eminent " Crank," John 
Ball, one of Doctor Thomas Fuller's " Worthies of England," 
as illustrations of the success of the stock in other fields than 
those of Yen us and of Mars. 

Suffice it to say that, though not filling any very wide space 
in the world's eye, the Balls of the Old Country, from genera- 
tion to generation, managed to " keep up their end of the 
rope," before taking leave of whom for their cis-Atlantic 
cousins, we will devote a few moments to a consideration of 
the origin of their common name. 

The Patronymic is, in my opinion, strong, simple Saxon. 
Ball, Bal, Bald, Bold, meaning quick, or swift, and derived, in 
all probability, like all early personal, not local surnames, 
from the characteristics C'f its first possessor ; though the fond 
fancy of some of his descendants has tried to trace, through 
it, an alliance to Baliol, or Balliol, the Pretender to the Scot- 


tish throne, or to Baldwin, King of Jerusalem — the derivation 
of which latter name is given, in an old work on Antiquities, 
printed in 1653, as "'^alb,' varied into our word ' bolD,' 
which also signifieth swift, for commonly with boldness there 
is some quickness or swiftness annexed ; ' foiit,' to overcom 
(sic) or to get by play, or by battail, (sic.) ' ^albbht' is, then, 
as ranch as to say, Cito vincens, or soon vanquishing or over- 

And, in another place, the derivation of the name Ball it- 
self is given as "A nickname of Baldwin, a West of England 
provincialism for Bald." 

To whicli may be added that in the modern German tongue 
(based on the Saxon) " ^alit," pronounced Bait, bears tlie kin- 
dred meaning of " soon," or " early." 

How all this may be, we know not with certainty : nor, in 
the opinion of many, does it much matter. 

" Stemmata ! Quid faciunt ? " says the satirist. " What " 
indeed ! And yet, perhaps, looked at rightly, of all things hu- 
man, next to Deeds, Descent is that most to be valued. 

All else is material, and " that vanisheth away ! " 

Wealth may take to itself wings and disappear in a night. 
Pleasures pall, and turn to ashes on the lips in the tasting. 
Honors and Place bring envy and danger in their train ! 

^'- Priendshi'p hath passed me, like a ship at sea," is the cry 
of most empty hearts before their fifth Lustrum ! 

No ! If not yours to write your own name, in letters of liv- 
ing light, high above the " Steep where Fame's proud temple 
shines afar," then scorn not, but rejoice, if with those there 
written you may claim the sacred tie of consanguinity ; tliat 
mysterious tie which, while this " Muddy vesture of decay 
doth grossly close us " in, we cannot understand, but which 
we are surely justified in believing will outlast the present life, 
and link together in the great Beyond those whom it bound below. 

Per contra^ "Better," as Tennyson (in his capacity as Poet 
not as Baronet) somewhere sings, far " Better simple faith 
than Norman blood ! " and forever true that Sirocco blast of 

Byron's : 

" Not all the blood of all the Howards 
Can e'er ennoble knaves, or fools, or cowards ! " 

The sum of the whole matter is that DesQ,Q,x\l is good, but 
.Ascent is better. He that has either alone, may not despise 
the other : he that has neither may not despise the possessor 
of either : while he that has both is to be envied indeed ! 


Remembering, always, that l)y " Ascent " is not meant the 
summit o£ the hill of Plutns. Better, in the sight of gods 
and men, the honest navvy at the bottom of his ditch, than 
the millionaires, of whom this land is full, perched on their 
piles of money-bags, and elevated by them only above the 
heads of their fellows. 

But now " The wind is roaring seaward, and we go " to take 
ship witli William the Exile for the New World, across the 
" wallowing sea," as poor Sidney Lanier, that bright genius 
too early quenched, calls it in his picture of the passage of 
the Mayflower. 1 never read his " Centennial Ode " but once, 
but that epithet has stuck by me as worthy to be classed with 
the " Poluphloisboio thalasses " of the Father of Poetry. But 
this is a digression ! 

That the transplanted scion took vigorous root, and flour- 
ished in Virginia soil, we find evidence in the pages of the 
work of the venerable Bishop Meade, before referred to, who, 
speaking of the old Colonial White Chapel Church, near which 
Colonel Ball settled, says : " The first church was torn down. 
From the vestry-book it appears that the present one was built 
in iT-iO, (just 83 years after the arrival of the Exile.) In that 
year Major James Ball and Mr. Joseph Ball are allowed to 
build a gallery in the church (at their own expense) for their 
families, provided it be completed at the same time with the 
church, and finished in the same style with the west gallery. 

Leave is also granted to two other of the Balls and two Mr. 
Burgeses to build an end gallery on the same terms. * * * 
In the year 1724, (nearly 20 years previous to this,) Mr. Bell, 
the minister, informs his Bishop (the Bishop of London) that 
there were three hundred families in the congregation. - -' * 
Around, under the venerable pines which enclose the church 
on two sides, lie a number of those strong, heavy, tombstones, 
which betoken a deep regard of the living for the dead. 
Almost all of them are inscribed with the name of Ball, a 
name which so abounds in the vestry-book, the County, and the 

Tlirough the kindness of a friend I have a document of 
more ancient date than any tombstone inscription there. 

It is a description of the Coat of Arms of the family of 
Ball, brought to this country by the first of the name who 
came over. 

The Coat of Arms has much that is bold about it, as a 
lion rampant, with a globe in his paw, with helmet, shield, and 


visor, and other things betokening strength and courage ; but 
none of these suit my work. 

There is, liowever, one thing which does. On a scroll are 
these words, as. a motto, Coelum. tiieri. May it be a memento 
to all his posterity to look upward and seek the things which 
are above. 

On the back of this Armorial document are the folloMang 
words, in a bold hand, such as was common in those days : 

The Coat of Arms of Colonel William Ball, who came from 
England with his family about the year 1650, (1657,) settled at 
the mouth of Corotoman river in Lancaster Co.. Virg'a, and died 
in 1669, (1680?) leaving two sons, William (of ' Millenbeck,' the 
paternal seat) and Joseph, (of 'Epping Forest,') and one daugh- 
ter, Hannah, who married Daniel (David?) Fox. 

William (of Millenbeck) left eight sons and one daughter. 
Joseph's male issue is extinct. General George Washington is his 
grandson by his youngest daughter Mary. 

Colonel Burges Ball is the only child of Jeduthon, the young- 
est son of James, 3d son of William. 

On the Church Records, as vestrymen, &c., appear the 
names of Cuthbert Powell, Edward Digges, W. Berkeley, 
Henry Corl)yn, John Taylor, Joseph Chinn, Rich'd Chichester, 
Captain Tayloe, Colonel Conway, Thaddeus McCarty, Wil- 
liam Montague, David Fox, John Washington, and others, in- 
cluding no less than seven of the name of Ball. John Carter, 
Henry Corbyn, David Fox, and William Leech are appointed 
to take up subscriptions for the support of the minister. 

In addition to the above I may state that the County records, 
as well as the vestry-books, show that the family of Balls was 
very active in promoting good things. 

At an early period of our history a measure was set on foot 
for educating a number of Virginia youths for the ministry. 

It would appear from the County records that this measure 
originated, in 1729, with Mr. Joseph Ball, of Moratico, the 
uncle of Washington. The following is the entry : 

A proposition of Joseph Ball, gentleman, in behalf of himself 
and the rest of the inhabitants of Virginia, directed to the Honor- 
able the General Assembly, concerning the instructing a certain 
number of young gentlemen, Virginians born, in the study of 
Divinity, at the County's charge, was this day presented in court 
by the said Joseph Ball, and on his prayer ordered to be certified 
to the General Assembly. 

This Joseph Ball married a Miss Ravenscroft, of England, 


where he was edncated, and settled in London as a practitioner 
of Law. I have before me two letters from him ; the one ad- 
dressed to his sister Mary; the other to his nephew, then Major 
George Washington. (Meade, 11, 125.) 

The latter, written on the reception in England of the news 
of Braddock's defeat, runs thus : 

Stratfokd, hth Septemiher^ 1755. 

Good Cousin : It is a sensible pleasure to me to hear that you 
have behaved yourself with such a martial spirit in all your en- 
gagements with the French nigh Ohio. Go on as you have begun, 
and God prosper you. We have heard of General Braddock's de- 
feat. Everybody blames his rash conduct. Everybody commends 
the courage of the Virginians and Carolina men, which is very 
agreeable to me. I desire you, as you may have opportunity, to 
give me a short account how you proceed. I am your mother's 
brother. I hope you will not deny my request. I heartily wish 
you good success, and am 

Your loving uncle, 


To Major George Washington, at the Falls of Rappahannock, 
or elsewhere in Virginia. 
Please direct for me at Stratford-by-Bow, nigh London. 

Colonel Joseph Ball, of " Epping Forest," the grandfather 
of Washington, was twice married — first, to a Miss Rogers, and 
secondly, to a Widow Johnson, an English lady, whose maiden 
name is not positively ascertained. In my MS. is a pencil in- 
terlineation, made nearly fifty years ago, of the name " Mon- 
tague," without explanation or reference to authority. 

If I ever had other papers or letters bearing on the point, 
the tide of time, supplemented by war and fire, has swept 
them away, so I give the entry for what it may be worth, 
hoping that some one else may be able to substantiate or dis- 
prove it. 

Even so far back as a hundred years ago this was a mooted 
and uncertain point, and I am therefore afraid that at this late 
day we shall never be able to solve it. 

In a letter now before me, dated Sept. 11th, 1789, and writ- 
ten by Colonel James Ball of " Bewdley," in direct reply to 
certain genealogical inquiries incited by the then recent death 
of Mrs. Washington, occurs the following passage : " The 
death of old Mrs. Washington we had heard of before the 
receipt of yours. I have, according to your request, made 
inquiry into her genealogy, l>nt have gained very little satis- 


factory relativ^e to her mother's family. Old Mrs. Sherman, 
her niece, of whom I expected most, knows nothing more than 
that her mother was an Englishwoman ; hut, upon examining 
her father's, Joseph Ball's, will, I lind her mother's name was 
Mary, and that she had a daughter wliom he calls Elizabeth 
Johnson, from which 1 suppose she was a widow of that name 
when he married her. Indeed, I have heard that she was * * *." 

(Note. — Since the date of the above writing I am confirmed 
in my opinion that she was a Montague, and a member of the 
English family of that name descended from the extinct Earls 
of Salisbury.) 

Of the first or Rogers marriage, then, was Joseph Ball of 
" Moratico," who returned to England to live, as said before ; 
and of the second or Widow Johnson marriage, Mary, the 
youngest child, who married Augustine Washington. 

There were also four other daughters, who married, respect- 
ively, Raleigli Travers, Raleigh Ohinn, Colonel Edwin Con- 
way, and the Rev. Mr. Carnegie, and who are assigned by two 
of the MSS. in my possession to the first, and by the other to 
the second marriage. The Downman MS., as already seen, 
making them the full sisters of the mother of Washington, 
while the " Bewdley " letter, just quoted from, goes on to say, 
u^ ^ ^ -:f Joseph, the third son of the first William, 
married Miss Rogers, by whom he had Joseph, born March 
lUh, 1684 ; Elizabeth, who married the Rev. Mr. Carnegie; 
Hannah, who married Mr. Travers ; Anne, who married 
Colonel Edwin Conway, nnd Easter, who married Mr. Raw- 
leigh Chinn. He afterwards married Mrs. Washington's 
mother, by wliom he had her, and soon after died. His will 
is dated the 5th of June, 1711." 

Which is correct I cannot decide, but the weight of evidence 
is in favor of the first, or half-blood supposition. It being 
scarcely credible that Mrs. Slierman could have been ignorant 
of the maiden name of her own Grandmother ; and the pic- 
tures we have of the youngest of the family, as the Toast of 
the Gallants of her Day, rather pointing to the conclusion that 
her sisters were so much her elders as not to be her rivals. 

Mary — the " Rose of Epping Forest " — and reigning " Belle 
of the Northern Neck," as she was universally styled, would, 
in common " parlance," be called hard to please, in that, in 
those times, when marriages were generally early, she did not 
resigii her sceptre until she had attained the ripe age of twenty- 


six, (not " love-inspiring sixteen," as Parson Weems would 
have us believe,) 

But, in point of fact, her conduct in this most important 
matter of a woman's life was only an evidence of the con- 
summate wisdom, calm equipoise of soul, and perfect self- 
control, so strikingly displayed throughout her subsequent career. 
Had it been otherwise ; had she made a silly, school-girl, mad- 
cap match at " love-inspiring sixteen," she would not have been 
the woman that she was, and tlie world would have wanted a 
Washington ! 

The man to whom, on the 6th of March, 1730, she gave her 
hand and heart, was Augustine Washington, a gentleman of 
high standing, noble character, large property, and considera- 
ble personal attractions, being of fair complexion, tall stature, 
commanding presence, and an age not disproportioned to her 

After thirteen years of domestic felicity, this union was dis- 
solved by his death, from gout in the stomacli, at the age of 
forty-nine, and she found herself a widow, charged with the 
care and training of live children under eleven years of age, 
and the other heavy responsibilities that devolved on a con- 
scientious Southern mistress under tlie old regime. To both 
she was equal. How fully the world has seen ! 

The only memoir we have of this sterling woman, and most 
fortunate of mothers, is one, now out of print, from the pen of 
the venerable George Washington Parke Cnstis, himself so 
long an object of affectionate interest to the American people, 
as the last lingering survivor of the Mt. Vernon Fireside. 

From his noble and graceful tribute, not having a copy of 
the work accessible. I can quote only from memory, and from 
some fragmentary jottings made, long since, for another occa- 

His biography of her opens with these words : " Of that dis- 
tinguished woman whose peculiar cast of character — whose 
precepts and discipline in the education of her illustrious son, 
himself acknowledo;ed to have been the foundation of his for- 
tune and his fame, I scarcely know how to speak. 

" It was said by the ancients that the mother always gave the 
tone to the character of the child, and we may be permitted to 
say that, since the days of antiquity, a mother has not lived 
better fitted to give the tone and character of real greatness to 
her child, than her whose life and actions this reminiscence 
will endeavor to illustrate. 


" This lady possessed not the ambition which is common to 
meaner minds ; and the peculiar plainness, yet dignity, of her 
habits and manners became in nowise altered when the sun 
of glory rose upon her house in the person of her son." 

The late Lawrence Washington, of Chotank, the playmate 
and schoolfellow of this son, describes her thus : " Even now, 
when time has whitened my hair and I am the grandparent 
of a second generation, I could not behold that remarkable 
woman without feelings it is impossible to describe. Who- 
ever lias seen that awe-inspiring air and manner, so character- 
istic of the Father, of his Country, will remember the matron 
as she appeared when the presiding genius of her well-ordered 
household, commanding and being obeyed." 

Sir Rom. de Camden says of her : "A writer, whose name 
refuses to be recollected by me at this time, has spoken to this 
eifect : ' If George Washington was great, Mary Washington 
was greater, for she taught him how to use his natural, divinely 
implanted gifts and talents to the best advantage.' No one 
who has studied the life of the Father of his Country can hes- 
itate in believing that Mary Washington was remarkable for 
vigor of intellect, strength of resolution, and inflexible firm- 
ness wherever principle was concerned ; for these were strik- 
ing characteristics of her first-born son ; nor can we doubt 
tliat she was distinguished by that well-marked quality of 
genius, the power of acquiring and maintaining influence over 
those with whom she associated, for that son was peculiarly 
born to command without seeming so much to rule as to guide 
or lead. 

" I know of no more interesting study than the study of a 
mother in the life and character of her child, and in no in- 
stance in the World's history can this more satisfactorily be 
done than in that of Mary and George Washington." 

Mrs. EUet says, in her " Women of the Revolution:" " There 
needs no eulogy to awaken the associations which cling around 
that sacred name. The great La Fayette observed that she 
belonged rather to the age of Sparta or Rome, than to modern 
times. She was a mother framed on the ancient model, and, 
by her elevation of character and matchless discipline, fitted 
to lay the foundation of the greatness of him who towered 
' Beyond all Greek, beyond all Roman fame.' " 

That singularly sagacious observer, Elkanah Watson, on his 
Southern tour, soon after the Revolution, passed through 
Fredericksburgh, and notes in his Diary : " At this place the 


mother of o-rir Washington resides, and she was pointed out to 
me. Slie is a majestic and venerable woman !" 

" It has been said," writes Sparks, after a glowing tribute 
to her character, " that there never was a great man the ele- 
ments of whose greatness might not be traced to the original 
characteristics or early influence of his mother. If this be 
true, how much do mankind owe to the mother of Wash- 
ington !" 

Nor has Poesy been silent in her praise. On an occasion 
of deep interest, more tlian fifty years ago — on which I shall 
have something to say in another Paper — the contribution of 
Mrs. Sigourney was a noble Ode, commencing — 

" Long hast thou slept unnoticed ! 

* * * But now we come 

To do thee homage, Mother of our Chief ! 
Fit homage, such as honoreth him who pays. 
Methiuks we see thee, as in olden time, 
Simple in garb, majestic and serene, 
Unmoved by pomp or circumstance, in truth 
Inflexible. * * * 

* * * For the might that clothed 
The Pater Patriae, — for the glorioias deeds 
That make Mt. Vernon's tomb a Mecca shrine 
For all the earth, what thanks to thee are due, 
Who midst his elements of being wrought 
We know not ! — Heaven can tell." 

But space fails me, and did it not, " gilding refined gold " 
were but a useless task. 

Instead of, " Pelion upon Ossa " like, piling up testimony 
of this sort, I will, l)efore closing, record a few characteristic 
incidents of her generally uneventful life, of which some, gath- 
ered by myself or friends from sources now silent forever, 
have never before been committed to paper. 

The Yorktown ball has been better told by other pens, but 
will bear repeating here, as to most of the present generation 
of readers it is doubtless new. 

On their return march from the capture of Cornwallis a 
brilliant galaxy of French and Continental officers paused for 
a few days to enjoy the far-famed hospitalities of Fredericks- 
burgh. In their honor the Old Town outdid herself. All was 
revelry. A splendid ball was given, to which Mrs. Washing- 
ton, then in her eightieth year, was specially invited. 

To gratify her son, and to do renown to the great occasion, 
she accepted, and entered tlie Hall, leaning upon his arm. All 
eyes were turned upon them — those of the old denizens of 


Frederieksbnrgh with affectionate and familiar reverence; those 
of tlie titled and conrtly Foreigners with amazement and in- 
credulity. That Mrs. Washington ! tlie mother of the Chief- 
tain whose renown filled two hemispheres ! No Diamonds ! no 
Lace ! no Feathers ! no Velvet ! no Brocade ! Only an un- 
adorned robe of some home-made material, spotless, but se- 
verely plain. " Simple in garb ; majestic and serene," (as Mrs. 
Sigourney has it,) she stood, the cynosure of that brilliant as- 
semblage ! 

" Mon Dieu !" was the comment that passed among the For- 
eign guests, " if such be tlie matrons of America, no wonder 
that she has ilhistrious sons !" 

The first shock of wonderment over, the chivalrous Gauls 
crowded around her to pay attentions that were almost reveren- 
tial in their character, until, at an early hour, slie took her dig- 
nified and courteous leave. 

At tliis ball a great aunt of my wife was present, of whom 
more anon. 

One year later, in the autumn of 1784, La Fayette again, 
and for the last time, saw her, having made the journey from 
Philadelphia to Fredericksburgh, for the especial purpose of 
paying to the venerated lady liis parting respects before his 
return to France. This time he found her in her garden, clad 
in homespun, with a hat of straw, engaged in working her 
flowers with her own hands. On bidding her farewell, he 
asked and received her blessing, and afterwards remarked to 
a friend that in her case only did the Roman matron flourish 
in our Modern Day. 

The lady above referred to as a connection, well known in 
Fredericksburgh and the adjacent part of the State as " Aunt 

M ," was a perfect mine of reminiscences concerning the 

subject of our sketch and everything therewith connected. 

But alas ! she died without my having ever seen her, and in 
the young, pleasure-loving nieces and nephews brought up 
around her she found but inattentive listeners. By far the 
greater portion of what she might have told is, therefore, lost 
to posterity. Heu ! Hiatus dejlendus irreparahilisque ! 

She was a daughter of Dr. Charles Mortimer, a native of 
England, but at this time a citizen of Fredericksburgh, the 
neighbor, friend, and family physician of Mrs. Washington, 
on whom, whether she was sick or well, and he himself disen- 
gaged or busy, it was the rule of his life to call every day to 
see that she wanted nothing. 


Occasionally these visits were returned, but never on foot. 
Her size, at this period of her life, and the increasing infirmi- 
ties of age, making walking irksome, she always came in her 
little phaeton, driven by " Old Stephen." 

On these occasions she was clad, in "Aunt M 's " words, 

in a " yellow short-gown." "A yellow short-gown ! Aunt 

M ! " her little auditors would exclaim with uproarious 

peals of laughter. " Yes, my dears, you must remember these 
were war-times, when everything was scarce, and the very best 
people dressed poorly enough. I was only thirteen years old, 
and it's been nearly seventy years since. But I remember her 
looks as well as if I had seen her yesterday." 

The same lady, on another occasion, gave a vivid account of 
the dinner given by her father to the otticers a day or two after 
the ball before described, at which she (though " only thirteen ") 
was, owing to the sickness of her mother, Sarah Griffin Faunt- 
leroy, and the paternal pride of her father, compelled to pre- 

There were present Count D'Estaing, Count Hocharabeau, 
Marquis de La Fayette, and a host of others, both foreigners 
and Americans, and the little lady's heart was in her mouth, 
she said, though she had been precocious enough to appear at 
the ball a few nights before. 

The table, as she described it, groaned with every delicacy 
of land and water, served, however, in neither silver nor china, 
but in peioter, massive and polished until it shone again, and 
this, though the Doctor had been, and was, even then, a 
wealthy man — such, in part, the effect of the war, and, in 
part, the fashion of the time. 

His house, an immense pile of English brick, still stands on 
the lower edge of the town facing Main street, with a garden 
sloping to the river, where, in his palmiest days, his own to- 
bacco ships used to run up to discharge their return English 
cargoes by a channel long since disused and filled up. 

To the last his profession was more a matter of choice than 
of necessity with liim, and he was further impelled to its prac- 
tice by the solicitations of the people, with whom, both for his 
skill and character, he was held in the highest esteem. 

Though now, of his own volition, a plain republican, he 
could show a longer pedigree than any one of the nobility of 
the country he had left, being lineally descended from that 
Sir Roger de Mortuo Mari who rode, bit to bit, with William 
at Hastings, to whom he was allied by consanguinity, as 


were his descendants to the succeeding occupants of the Eng- 
lish throne, down to the time of Edward IV. 

To this dinner the Dr., of course, invited Mrs. Washington, 
but equally of course she did not come, her appearance at the 
ball having been an extraordinary effort, intended to mark her 
sense of the importance of the occasion, which was intoxicat- 
ing the whole people with joy. 

And right here, in this connection, I am reminded to refute 
the charge first l)rought, I think, by Weems, of disloyalty to 
the cause for which the Patriots stood in arms, and for wliich 
her own son had drawn his sword — that sword which, — 
" Fit for Archangel to wield, was light in his terrible hand." 

Disloyal ! Custis emphatically denies and repels the charge. 
And which is the worthier of credence — the half crazy, fiddling, 
Pedler Parson, or the adopted son of Washingtun, the fj'ieud 
of La Fayette, the father, by marriage, of Robert Lee ? 

One single anecdote, illustrative of her supreme self-control, 
is all I shall have room for now, as this paper is already grow- 
ing to undue length. 

The loungers about the principal tavern of the old burgh 
were, one day, startled 1)}' the arrival of a courier, wlio, pull- 
ing up his jaded and panting horse, inquired the way to the 
house of Mrs. Washington. 

Anticipating some great public; tidings, of either victory or 
defeat, a dozen volunteered to show and accompany him, a 
zealous patriot of the street-corner order, a butcher by trade, 
named Keiser, at their head. 

Arriving at her door, they knocked in vain ; there was no 
response ; and it was some minutes, which seemed hours to the 
impatient crowd, before they ascertained that she was at the 
bottom of her garden. 

Unwilling to trespass on those sacred precincts, all hung 
back but Keiser, who volunteered to pilot the messenger, and 
bring them back the news. 

When found, the matron, gloves on and pruning-knife in 
hand, was engag-ed, with the aid of her factotum, " Old 
Stephen," in tying up tlie branches of a favorite grape-vine, 
which had been broken down by a storm. 

Taking the packet she, instead of reading it, placed it in one 
of the fathomless pockets worn by ladies of the period when 
about their household duties, and resumed her task, bidding 
the courier, at the same time, to go to the house and tell the 
cook to give him some refreshment. 


Keiser's eager countenance fell, and he ventured, before 
withdrawing, to suggest that there might have been a battle. 

" If there has been," she responded, " all is rig/it ! 1 am 
well assured of thai /" and Keiser had to return chop-fallen to 
his companions and await with them down town the promulga- 
tion of the news. 

Most women (or men either) would have been impelled by 
irresistible curiosity to In-eak the seal upon the instant, but not 
so she ! She had alirm faith tliat "all was right, be it what it 
might," and sufficient mastery of herself to rest, for the mo- 
ment, upon that faith. 

This incident, I am aware, may be wrested to argue indiffer- 
ence, on her part, to the great events that were transpiring. 
But, to be convinced that such was not the true explanation, we 
have only to remember that she was a mother^ as well as a cit- 

In the case supposed the act would have been heartless and 
unnatural ! In the case real it was sublime ! 

Her constant and abounding charity to the poor, her deep 
and fervent piety, her industr}^ economy, and vigorous grasp 
of every detail of business, her abhorrence of everything like 
insincerity, her proud independence of even her own children, 
her fortitude under suffering tlie most excruciating, her hu- 
mility, with so just cause for pride, 1 pass over without men- 
tion, and hasten to the closing scene, which came early in the 
month of September, 1789, and was first announced to the 
President, absent at the seat of Government, by liis kinsman. 
Colonel Burges Ball, as appears from a letter extant to Mrs. 
Betty Lewis, dated New York, Sept. 13th, 1789, and com- 
mencing : 

" My Dear Sister : Colonel Ball's letter gave me the first account 
of my mother's death. Since that I have received Mrs. Carter's 
letter written at your request, and, previous to both, I was prepared 
for the event by advices of her illness coming to your son Robert. 

" Awful and affecting as the death of a parent is, there is conso- 
lation in knowing that Heaven has spared ours to an age beyond 
which few attain, and favored her with the full enjoyment of her 
mental faculties and as much bodily strength as usually falls to 
the lot of four score. * * * When I was last at Fredericks- 
bui'gh I took a final leave of her, never expecting to see her more. 
* * * &c., &c. 

" Your affectionate brother, 



Painters being scarce in colonial days, unfortunately no por- 
trait of this eminent woman exists ; and, so far as I am aware, 
but two authentic relics — one a little trinket, lying before me 
as I write, the other a book, with her name inscribed, which is 
now probably in the possession of tlie descendants of John A. 
Washington, the last possessor of Mt. Vernon. 

In this brief sketch I have not dwelt upon the supercilious 
allusions of Irving, the fabrications of Weems, nor the silly 
lucubrations of anonymous scribblers, one of whom absurdly 
attributes her descent to General Monk, of the British Army. 

None of these tilings can, for a single moment, sully the 
purity or dim the lustre of the mother's fame, which, like the 
star of evening or of morning, rides the heavens, eclipsed by, 
but eternally accompanying, the dazzling effulgence of the 
Son ! 

If it shall meet with the approbation of the public I pro- 
pose, in a future paper, to publish in full the Constitution and 
documents o^the ^^Mary Washington Association of America^'' 
incorporated by the Legislature of Virginia, at my instance, 
some seven years ago, and to appeal to the ladies of the land 
not to let its dormant charter die, but to take under their active 
charge the memory of that one of their sex to whom their 
country, liberty, humanity is most deeply indebted. 

For the better understanding of the genealogical facts de- 
tailed in the foregoing pages I give them in tree form, from 
the time of William of Barkham, g. g. g. g. g. g. g. grand- 
father of Washington, to the present day. 

Of the collateral members of Washington's maternal family, 
one, of whom incidental mention has been made, Colonel Bar- 
ges Ball, deserves some further notice. 

Already related, through both the Balls and Burgeses, to 
the Commander-in-Chief, and afterwards the husband of his 
niece, he was, for a short time, like John Parke Custis, the 
step-son, a volunteer Aide, without pay, in his military family, 
which position, preferring more active servica-in the field, he 
soon exchanged for a Captaincy in the Line, rising to the rank 
of Colonel before his retirement. 

Only once during his military career did he incur anj^thing 
like censure from liis superior officers, having on the 5tli of 
July, 1776, the very day after the declaration of Independence, 
been subjected to a court-martial for negligence in suffering a 
stranded vessel to fall into the hands of the enemj^ ; of which 
charge he was honorably and unanimously acquitted by the 

Chest of Joseph Ball, 
Washington's Grandfather. 

of Woki 

Alice Haynes. 
of Finchbamstea 

of Ruftcoa 

Colonel TTm. Ball eml 
1657 ; settled "ilillo 
oa the Rappahannoc 

Margaret Downman 

Uajor James Ball 

Colonel James Ball, 
of "Bewdley." 

Capt. Wm. Ball, of " Millenbeck,' 
born June 2. 1641. 
died Sept. 30, 1694. 

Widow Daingerfield, 

^ nee Mary Conway. 

daughter of Anne. 

JosephBall, f " Moratlco, ' born 
March 11, 16S;, died Jan. 10. 1 :60, 
at Stratford ly Bow, KuglauiU- 

Miss I 

Frances Downman 

of England, 
married Dec. 3, 1709. 

Jeduthon Ball, 
born July 9, 1725, 

Male line extinct. 

Colonel Burges Ball 
born July 28, 1749, 
died March 7. 1800. 

Mary Chichester. 

Wm M. Thompson, 

of Culpepper Co., Vs. 


Catherine Thompson, 

half-sister to Hon. liich'd \V 

Thompson, of Indiana. 

Mildred T. Ball, 
born Oct. 22, 
1786. Dec'd. 

France Washiugtou. 
born ,mc 4, 176), 
marril April 7, 1781. 
died .1815. 

Capt. (i. W. Ball, 

died in service, 

war of 1812. 

Fayette Ball, 


of Washington 

born April 20, 

1791. Deed. 

Washington Ball 

Marv liompson Mason, pj. 

- randdauehter Charles 1; 


Ireorge Mason . 

f " Gunston." 



Richard Littleton, Esq., 
of Loudoun. 

Burges Bali 

Jla? BeVerley Rancolpb, 
daihter of Capt. Oliarles 
Caer Randolph, (liitconsin 
to en. R. E. Lee.) i 














♦ » 


Court, of which Major Spotswood was President. (See Amer. 
Archives, Fifth Series ; I, 9, by Feter Force.) 

In a letter to John Banister, Delegate in Congress, date 2lst 
April, 1778, the Commander-in-Chief says : 

" The spirit of x-esigning Commissions has been long at an alarm- 
ing height, and increases daily. In the Virginia Line no less than 
iiinety have already resigned to me. The same conduct has pre- 
vailed among the ofi&cers from the other States, though not yet to 
So considerable a degree, and there is great cause to fear that it 
will shake the very existence of the Army unless a remedy is soon, 
very soon, applied." 

Thronirh this time of trial Colonel Ball remained true to 
his colors, " among the faithless faithful few but he," until 
thrown out by juniority, not by choice, on the reorganization 
of the Virginia Contingent in Feb., 1781, when he turned his 
attention to the sea and engaged in the fitting out of privateers 
in Virginia waters, though without any marked success. 

Were this all, it would be no more than was done by thou- 
sands of others at the same period. But in his case, purse, as 
well as sword, was at the service of his country, and the large 
means with which he had been blessed by Providence were 
expended, without stint, in her defence. 

A letter before me, dated Feb. 1st., 1850, written by the 
venerable and then infirm Joseph Ball of " Ditchley," (the 
old Lee seat, which passed into the hands of the Balls by inter- 
marriage,) contains the following passages : " With pleasure 
would I give you all the information in my power (and regret 
only my inability to furnish a more satisfactory account) of 
Colonel B urges Ball's Pevolutionary services, if I could. I 
heard, often, of his ardent patriotism and of the great sacri- 
fices he made in the cause, but I can now remember none of the 
details. That he was a noble-hearted, generous soul, every 
one understood who knew him, being not only so as a Patriot, 
but as a relative and private man. I cannot conclude this let- 
ter, feeble as I am from a recent attack of rheumatism joined 
to old age, without expressing the gratification I feel in being 
able to be of some service, however small, to u\y fellow-man, 
more especially to my relations * * * j ^m still in the 
land of the living, but how long to remain here God only 
knows. I cannot remain much longer." 

The writer of this letter was an infant in arms at the time 
of the Revolution, and a school-boy when Col. Ball left the 
lower country forever ; so it is not wonderful that, enfeebled 


as he was by age and sickness, he should have been unable to 
give more than the genei-al statement he did of a relative who 
had been then half a century in his grave. 

Had investigation been pressed in other quarters, more 
minute evidence might have l)een recovered even then. But 
it is now too late ! 

The i-eference, in Joseph Ball's letter, to the esteem in which 
Colonel Burges was held by all who were thrown with him, 
would seem to be coniirmed by an old letter, tattered and yel- 
low with age, from the gallant Col. Stewart, of the Virginia 
Line, one of his comrades in arms, which, couched all through 
in terms of the warmest regard, closes with the words: "Until 
we meet I wish you every happiness the loortkietit of men can 
attain, and am, my Dear Ball, with sincere regard, your most 
affectionate friend, Walter Stewart." 

His correspondence with Washington, in my possession, and 
never heretofore published, shows the affectionate esteem en- 
tertained for him by that least demonstrative of men. But 
space will not permit me to insert more than one or two of 
the letters here. One, of coniidential nature, asking his opin- 
ion of a mutual relative, is as follows : 

"Philadelphia, Aug. 4:th, 1793. 

" Deak Sir : Previously to the receipt of your letter of the 25th 
ulto , some persons had been mentioned to me as well qualified for 
the superintendence of my business at Mount Vernon, and until 
something is decided with respect to them, (letters having passed 
on the subject,) I can say nothing further with respect to Mr. Law- 
rence Lewis. So much am I engaged in public business, and so lit- 
tle have I it in my power to visit or attend to my private concerns, 
that it becomes extremely necessary (besides fidilit}^) {sic) to have 
an experienced and skilful man of some weight to manage my 
business — one whose judgment is able to direct him in cases which 
may arise out of circumstances that can neither be foreseen nor 
previously guarded against. 

" What the age of Mr. Lawrence Lewis is, what opportunities 
he may have had to acquire any knowledge in the management of 
a farm, what his disposition, whether active or indolent, whether 
clear in his perceptions and of good judgment, whether sober and 
sedate, or fond of amusements and running about, with other 
queries which might be asked as well applying to a young man 
just entering on the career of life, are all matters to which I am 
an entire stranger, and if you can give me information respecting 
them, I shall thank you. 

"•You will readily perceive that my sole object in these enquiries 
is to ascertain the competency of a character to whom I should 


commit an important trust. Consequently going no farther can 
operate nothing to the prejudice of my nephew, whatever in con- 
fidence you may say to me on the foregoing points and such 
others as may occur to you. 

"So far as integrity, and I presume sobriety, would qualify 
him, I should give him my entire confidence ; but though these 
are very essential, something more, circumstanced as I am, is 
equally necessary. Was I at home myself, I should prefer a per- 
son connected with me, as he is, to a more skilful man that was 
not, (provided he had no thoughts of soon forming a matrimonial 
alliance,) because he could aid me in attention to company, which 
I should stand as much in need of as of one to look after my 
estate, as my disposition would lead me to endulge (sic) in retire- 
ment whenever I shall quit my pubhc walks. My love to Mrs. 
Ball and your family, in w'ch Mrs. Washington joins. With sin- 
cere regard and friendship, I am y'rs affectionately, 


"To Col. Ball, &c." 

This Mr. Lewis not only procured the situation for which 
he was recommended by Col. Ball, hut so justiHed liis endorse- 
ment of liim as to become, at a later day, the husband of Nellie 
Custis, the adopted daughter of Washington. 

Another, and of a very affecting character, preceding, as it 
did, his own death (to which it alludes) by only a few months, 
is in acknowledgment of the receipt of tidings of the death 
of his brother Charles. 

And here we may remark that, unless the ternis of intimacy 
on which they stood be taken into consideration, it would be a 
carious coincidence that it should have been the colonel's lot 
to be the first to announce to Washington tlie death both of 
his mother and of the last survivor of his family, and even 
then it was certainly a misfortnne to have had, as Tony Wel- 
ler says, " The pleasure of being so often tlie bearer of ill 
news." The first bringer of such tidings having, Shakspeare 
tells us, " but a losing ofiice, and a tongue that soundeth ever 
after like a solemn bell." This letter reads : 

"Mt. Vernon, Sept. 22d, 1799. 

" Dear Sir : Your letter of the 16th inst. has been received, in- 
forming me of the death of my brother. 

" The death of near relations always produces awful and affect- 
ing emotions, under whatsoever circumstances it may hapi^en. 
That of my brother has been so long expected, and his latter days 
so uncomfortable to himself, (sic,) must have prepai'ed all around 
him for the stroke, though painful in the effect. 


" I was the first, and am, now, the last of my father's children 
by the second marriage, who remain. 

"When I shall be called upon to folloib them is known only to 
the Giver of Life. When the summons comes I shall endeavor to 
obey it with a good grace. 

" Mrs. Washington has been and still is very much indisposed, 
but unites with me in best wishes for you, Mrs. Ball, and family. 

" With great esteem and regard, I am. Dear Sir, your affection'te 

" Col. BuRGES Ball, &c." 

When the leaves, tlien reddening with the earliest frost of 
autumn, were fully fallen, he was "called upon to follow 
tliem," and "obeyed with a good grace," jnst eighty-three di^ys, 
after the penning of that letter, (Sept. 22d to December the 

When the latest frost of spring was releasing its grasp upon 
the embryo buds of another season, after an interval (mark, 
here, another curious coincidence!) of just eighty-three days 
again (Dec. 14th to the 7th of March) his friend was called, 
and likewise "with a good grace" answered ''^Adsutn P'' 

The character and history of the subject of this portion of 
our sketch may be Ijest and most concisely gathered from the 
following Epitaph, prepared, nearly half a century ago, by one 
of his descendants, for a stone which was never put in place. 
His grave, like those of many another of his revolutionary 
compatriots deserving of a better fate, being marked, to-day, 
only by the wild thorn and the briar : 

" Beneath this stone lie interred the remains of Colonel Burges 

Ball, of Lancaster : 
A man whose services to his country might well deserve the 
poor meed of Fame posterity has denied him. 

" The only son of a wealthy planter, and heir, by his first 
marriage, to a large estate in England ; he was one of the 
many of Virginia's sons who freely and at once responded to 
their country's need, sparing neither blood nor treasui'e in 
her defence. 

" Though, in the annals of his State 
justice has never yet been done him ; 
and on the shore of history, 
' That wide sea, which one contimious murmur breeds,' 
one listens now, in vain, for the echo of his name. 

" 'Tis yet a well-attested fact that his were efforts and sac- 
rifices which might justly claim, even in the hallowed temple of 
a nation's remembi'ance, at least some lowly shrine. 


" Since all other records, then, have failed. 
This Stone 
may briefly tell that, at the first call of Freedom, he, attaching 
himself, for a time, to the personal staff 

of his near kinsman, the Immortal Washington, 
soon after led, in person, to the field, a body of Infantry, 
raised and equipped, to a large extent, at his own expense ; 
with which arm, though small in statui'e and of feeble health, 
he remained in active service until made prisoner in the lines 
of Charleston, in 1780. 

" At the close of the vrar, shattered in health and fortune, 
he returned to his old Homestead, near Fredericksburgh, 
Virginia, where, in the exercise of the unbounded hospitality 
that had ever characterized the well-known and most appro- 
priately named Seat of 

' Traveller's Rest,' 
the remainder of his once princely fortune soon melted away ; 
insomuch that, a few years later, he was glad to retire to a 
rustic cabin, in what were then the Wilds of Loudoun, where, 
on a tract of land, the results of his commuted Back-Pay, he 
spent the remainder of his days, cheered by the correspon- 
dence and occasional visits of his old companions in arms ; 

and where, on the 

7th of March, 1800, 

amid sorrow, not confined to his own family circle, he died, 

^tat 51." 

With each revolving year it becomes less likely that the 
stone, so long neglected, will ever be reared. May this feeble 
tril)ate to one of the gallant forgotten Patriots of that time, 
not only partially atone in his case, but incite to similar justice 
in the case of others ; till o'er each 

Warrior's half forgotten grave, 

Where the grey stones and unmolested grass 
Ages, but not oblivion, feebly brave," 

some " Old Mortality " may bend and perform the ofSce I 
have striven to accomplish here. 

To the last letter ever written by Washington to Col. Ball 
may be added, as an appropriate pendant, that announcing the 
death of Washington himself. 

Railroads, nor even stage-coaches, yet existed, and iifty 
miles of mud, snow, and mountain roads formed a barrier so 
impassable that, being now himself a prisoner in what was to 
be soon his own death-chamber, he was totally unable to obey 
the summons to the funeral of his g-reat kinsman. 


The letter, which must have been sent by messenger, for it 
bears no postmark, is as follows : 

" Mount Vernon, Dec. 15th, 1799. 

"My Dear Sir: Little did I think, when I last saw you, that I 
should have the painful task at this time imposed on me of inform- 
ing you of the death of our beloved friend. General Washington. 
Alas ! he is no more. These hands performed the last act of 
friendship to that great and good man between ten and eleven 
o'clock last night. He expired after a short illness of about 
twenty hours. On Fi'iday he complained of a cold, but gave 
himself little trouble about it. On Saturday morning he became 
ill. Dr. Craik was sent for. The symptoms appeared alarming, 
an inflammation having taken place in his throat, which terminated 
in the disease called the quinsy. Dr. Dick, of Alex'a, and Dr. 
Brown, of Port Tobacco, were called in, and every medical aid 
used, but in vain. He bore his distress with astonishing forti- 
tude ; and conscious, as he declared, several hours before his 
death, of his approaching dissolution, he resigned his breath with 
the greatest com^Dosure, having the full possession of his reason 
to the last moment. While I am writing I conceive it all to be a 
dream. But when I consider for a moment I find, alas I there is 
but too much reality in it. The body will be deposited in the 
vault on Wednesday or Thursday. His executors are Col. Wm. 
Washington, of Westmoreland ; Bushrod, George S., and Samuel 
Washington, Lawrence Lewis, and G. W. P. Custis. 

" Mrs. Washington bore the afflicting stroke with a pious resig- 
nation and fortitude which shew that her hopes were placed be- 
yond this life. Present my best and affectionate regards to your 
good lady. Miss Milly, and the boys, and believe me to be very 

" Your afflicted and sincere friend, 

" Col°- BuRGEs Ball, 

" Big Spring, Loudoun County^ 

This Colonel Lear, for many years the Private Secretary 
and trusted confidant of Wasiiington, lies himself in the Con- 
gressional Cemetery at tlie National Capital, under a massive, 
and for that day imposing, monument, inscribed with a glow- 
ing enloginm upon his many virtues, but especially his unwav- 
ering fidelity to that delicate and sacred trust. 

Of the part played by him in a certain remarkable interview 
between Washington and Jefferson, an incident of the secret 
history of that day — witnessed by him alone, and of which no 
public record exists — and in the subsequent, still more remark- 


able transactions growinsjont of it, to which, so far as I know, 
I alone hold the key, I may enlighten the public at some fntnre 
time, when able to collect and collate all the papers and mem- 
oranda now or formerly in my possession ; in connection with 
which will be published, also, the remaining correspondence, 
political and other, of whicii I have given herein only a few 
excerpts of a strictly domestic nature. 

From the Tree before given it is manifest that the nearest 
living kindred of Washington are to be found in the descend- 
ants of this Colonel Ball and Frances Washington, in conse- 
quence of the fact that, while she stands upon the same plane 
as all others of his nieces and nephews the heads of collateral 
families, lie^ at the time of his intermarriage with her, was 
himself already trebly related ; the few living descendants of 
that marriage standing, of consequence, in a fourfold relation- 
ship to the Father of his Country. 

In view of which state of things it is a little remarkable 
that in the Invitations issued to the Washington kindred to 
participate in the Dedicatory Ceremonies of the National Mon- 
ument, on the 21st of February, this particular branch should 
have been most especially and markedly slighted ; the only one 
of them present being, as the papers stated at the time, one 
who, happening to be on the spot, a resident of Washington 
Cit}', succeeded in procuring a recognition of his claim to be 
present. And it is in consequence of what I know of this 
gentleman, and in his behalf, though entirely without his 
knowledge, that I have selected the present time for giving 
this paper to the public. 

The " Washington Post,'''' in describing the incidents of that 
occasion, narrates that one of the earliest arrivals at the en- 
trance to the section set apart for the Washington kindred was 
an old gentleman, whose snowy locks, clear-cut features, and 
high bearing well betokened the relationship he claimed, giving 
the name he did, of " Ebenezer Burges Ball, grandson of 
Colonel Burges Ball and Frances Washington." 

Since then I have understood that he needs, and seeks of the 
Government, modest employment suited to his years and quali- 
fications in connection with the object of that day's proceed- 

An adventurous wanderer in California and Oregon for sev- 
enteen consecutive years, live of them before the famous " Era 
of Forty-nine^'' when all west of the Rockies was yet a path- 
less wilderness: 


Fw twelve 3'ears last past the pursuer of a calling, humble 
l)ut honorable, in Washington City, where his name has be- 
come with all who know him the synonym of integrity: 

Untitted by a life passed in camps rather tlian in courts for 
situations of a professional nature: 

He now, one of the three nearest in blood to Washington, 
over seventy years of age, of spotless character and Roman 
presence, asks to '-''keep the gate'''' of the Nation's Monument 
to his illustrious kinsman ! 

Shall — he — ask — in — vain ? 


March 30th, 1885. 


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